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Best 3DS games to buy before the eShop closes

Nintendo 3ds Digital Games Yoshi Amiibo
Nintendo 3ds Digital Games Yoshi Amiibo (Image credit: Nadine Dornieden / iMore)

Nintendo recently announced the imminent closure of the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Wii U eShop storefronts, much to the dismay of fans. There are many 3DS-exclusive games that have only had a home on Nintendo's first console to successfully offer a 3D gaming experience.

As of May 23, 2022, users will no longer be able to add funds to their Nintendo 3DS or Wii U via a credit or debit card. From August 29, 2022 onward, users can no longer add funds to their 3DS or Wii U via Nintendo eShop cards. However, there is still a way to link your 3DS and Wii U wallets with your Nintendo Switch eShop wallets. The 3DS and Wii U eShops closing not only means that many digital-only and Virtual Console games will be lost forever, but many physical games will shoot up in price.

This list encompasses several groups of games that 3DS fans may want to purchase, however, bear in mind that you should only purchase games that you are interested in. While it's fun to speculate about what games may increase in value over time, it does not guarantee a raise in value, so you should ensure that any game you buy is also a game or genre you're at least interested in playing.

Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire

Pokemon ORAS

Pokemon ORAS (Image credit: The Pokémon Company)

Pokémon games are, by and large, some of the best games to play on any Nintendo handheld system. The 3DS is home to two generations of exclusive games, plus remakes of the Generation III titles. Virtual Console is also available on the 3DS, and Nintendo managed to publish Pokémon Red, Blue, Yellow, Gold, Silver, and Crystal on the platform. These games are the only way to transfer legitimate Generation I and II Pokémon up to Generation VIII, and Pokémon Crystal in particular features the previously Japanese-exclusive Celebi event, making that game the only place to catch (and shiny hunt) a legitimate Generation II Celebi.

Pokemon Omega Ruby (Image credit: The Pokémon Company)

As for 3DS-exclusive titles, players can experience Pokémon X and Y, Pokémon Sun and Moon, and their sequels, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. Sun and Moon in particular have a special demo on the eShop that allows them to transfer an exclusive Ash Greninja with the Battle Bond ability to the full games, which can't be obtained anywhere else.

As for the best Pokémon games on the system, the award goes to Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. These games are the definitive way to experience the Hoenn region, and feature the Mega Evolution mechanic that was sorely missed in Pokémon Sword and Shield. These games also have a demo available that lets them transfer a special Pokémon to the main games, so be sure to snag that as well.

Fire Emblem Fates

Fire Emblem Fates New 3ds

Fire Emblem Fates New 3ds (Image credit: Nintendo)

If you're a Fire Emblem fan, you'll know that the series has the Nintendo 3DS to thank for its availability today. Fire Emblem: Awakening would have been the last games in the franchise had it not done well, but thankfully it took the world by storm. Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia also came to the West for the first time, being a re-imagining of the previously Japanese-exclusive Fire Emblem Gaiden on the Nintendo Entertainment System.

However, Fire Emblem Fates is the one you should set your eyes on. This game is unique in that there are three games under this title that have changes in story and difficulty, depending on what path you choose. Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright has you choose the Kingdom of Hoshido, while Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest sees you choose the side of the Kingdom of Nohr.

Fire Emblem Fates Hero

Fire Emblem Fates Hero (Image credit: Nintendo (screenshot))

There is a third path where the main character chooses neither kingdom, called Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation. This was available as part of the special edition that featured all three games on one cartridge, but the special edition now costs hundreds of dollars on the secondhand market. However, anyone who owns Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright or Conquest can purchase Revelation as DLC for $20, which is the only other way to experience this story. It's a great game, and we recommend you see what it's all about before the shop closes.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

Link Between Worlds Hero

Link Between Worlds Hero (Image credit: Nintendo (screenshot))

The Nintendo 3DS is an absolute Zelda machine. The original The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past are perfect for nostalgic fans. Exclusive to the 3DS Virtual Console are the Game Boy Color duo, The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons, as well as The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX, which is perfect for anyone looking for a budget version of those games.

Zelda Ocarina Of Time Adult Link Horse (Image credit: iMore)

Though they've since been brought to the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack service in their original form, the 3DS is also home to excellent remakes of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, in stunning stereoscopic 3D and with plenty of quality-of-life improvements from the originals.

However, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds takes the cake as one of the best games on the Nintendo 3DS, period. It takes advantage of the no-glasses 3D in the best ways, making it one of the games I'd recommend you play with the 3D on for as long as your eyes are comfortable. Of course, every Zelda game is great, but as with everything, some are better than others.

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team

Mario And Luigi 3ds

Mario And Luigi 3ds (Image credit: Nadine Dornieden / iMore)

Back in 2013, Nintendo decided to dedicate an entire year to Mario's little brother, Luigi. The Year of Luigi saw several celebrations surrounding the green-clad plumber, including two Luigi-themed 3DS consoles. That year also saw another entry in the Mario & Luigi franchise, a series of RPGs developed by Alpha Dream where players control both Mario and Luigi at the same time. Unfortunately, Alpha Dream filed for bankruptcy, which means that the Mario & Luigi games may not see a Nintendo Switch port.

There are several iterations on the 3DS, including remakes of previous titles, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions, and Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey. Two original titles also graced the system, and while Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is alright, the stronger game is definitely Mario & Luigi: Dream Team.

Luigi Yawn

Luigi Yawn (Image credit: Nintendo)

Travel into Luigi's subconscious as you move through levels that take place entirely in his dreams. By manipulating Luigi's face in the real world, you can build bridges or send gales of wind through his dreams, helping you solve puzzles along the way. The writing is wacky as always and the game takes advantage of the dual screens on the 3DS. Overall, it's a charming game you don't want to miss out on.

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Professor Layton Phoenix Wright Hero

Professor Layton Phoenix Wright Hero (Image credit: Nintendo (screenshot))

Everyone loves a good mystery game. The Professor Layton series has been beloved on the 3DS, with games like Professor Layton: The Azran Legacy and Professor Layton: The Miracle Mask. Solving mysteries through puzzles and environmental clues are what makes the games so memorable.

The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney games feature the titular lawyer as both a lawyer and a detectve of sorts. Players must examine evidence and interview suspects to find contradictions in the plaintiff's story, preventing innocent people from going to jail. Though the first trilogy of games can be found on the Nintendo Switch, games like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Spirit of Justice are only available on the Nintendo 3DS.

If you thought that Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was an unconventional crossover, you'd be right. The courtroom theatrics of Ace Attorney and the clever puzzles of Professor Layton come together in a game that's much better than anyone could have thought. It is quite expensive to get on the secondhand market, but of course it's available on the Nintendo 3DS eShop until its closure.

Metroid: Samus Returns

Metroid Samus Returns Amiibo

Metroid Samus Returns Amiibo (Image credit: Nintendo)

Metroid: Samus Returns is a remake of the Game Boy game, Metroid II — Return of Samus. While the Game Boy original is available via the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console, its 3DS remake is the definitive way to play. Taking advantage of the Circle Pad on the system, Samus can now aim and shoot in full 360 degrees. The new melee attacks bring n element of strategy to combat, and it's overall a great game for Metroid fans.

Unfortunately, it released after the debut of the Nintendo Switch, which means that not many got to experience this great title. Its low-print run means that it's likely to rise in price, so if you're looking for another great handheld Metroid game to experience after playing Metroid Dread, you should pick it up soon.

Kid Icarus: Uprising

Kid Icarus Uprising Header

Kid Icarus Uprising Header (Image credit: Nintendo)

After over 25 years, Masahiro Sakurai, the main driving force behind games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, followed through with his vision to bring back the Kid Icarus franchise, which hadn't seen any love since the NES days. The game evolved from a vertically-scrolling platformer to a third-person shooter, featuring on-rails shooter elements.

Though the game's content was received well, the controls ended up being controversial. Big box versions of this game came with a stand for your system, as one of the control schemes heavily implemented the use of the stylus for aiming. Of course, those who became accustomed to the controls swear by it, and it's highly recommended by fans of the game. The Kid Icarus series hasn't seen a sequel since, though, so if you're a big fan of Pit and friends, I'd recommend you get this now.

Dragon Quest VII and Dragon Quest VIII

Dragon Quest 7 3ds

Dragon Quest 7 3ds (Image credit: Nintendo (screenshot))

This entry is unique in that I am recommending both Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past and Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King. Dragon Quest is a great RPG series that's as classic as they get. Both Dragon Quest VII and Dragon Quest VIII are great remakes on the 3DS, and outside of a mobile port haven't seen ports to modern consoles since the 3DS.

They are so sought after that their physical prices are skyrocketing, so it's best to get this digitally if you can. If you're into Dragon Quest, you can also consider the DSi title Dragon Quest Wars, a tun-based strategy game available on the Nintendo 3DS eShop.

Poochy & Yoshi's Woolly World

Poochy Yoshis Woolly World

Poochy Yoshis Woolly World (Image credit: Nintendo)

Though this game was first released on Wii U, it's too good to not include on this list. In my opinion, it surpasses Yoshi's Crafted World by far in both presentation and gameplay mechanics that respect the player's time.

Yarn Poochy Amiibo

Yarn Poochy Amiibo (Image credit: Nintendo)

The 3DS port, Poochy & Yoshi's Woolly World, is unique in that it allows players to design their own Yoshis and distribute them via Streetpass. It also features unique timed auto-run levels where the player controlls the adorable Poochy. Whenever Poochy isn't helping his pal Yoshi, he's collecting gems and looking for his Poochy Pups who just seem to keep running off.

The physical version of this game was first released alongside a yarn Poochy amiibo, which was the only way this amiibo was released. Unfortunately, this means the physical version has become quite expensive due to amiibo collectors clamoring for that sweet Yarn Poochy, as well as completionists looking to unlock the exclusive levels unlocked by the amiibo. It's an amazing platformer, so I'd recommend getting it at least digitally if platformers are your thing.

All available updates

Red Nintendo 3DS

Red Nintendo 3DS (Image credit: iMore)

Before purchasing any games, make sure that your games are up to date first. Even if you don't have a physical or digital game yet, you can download the latest game updates necessary to play them with minimal bugs and glitches. Simply type "Update" in the Nintendo 3DS eShop and browse through the ones available for games you wish to purchase in the future. This is especially important for Pokémon games, which can even crash if they are not up to date. While updates should still be available after the closure of the eShop, there's no telling if they'll be available forever.

Free games and demos

Pokemon Home How To Transfer From Pokemon Bank Hero

Pokemon Home How To Transfer From Pokemon Bank Hero (Image credit: Rebecca Spear / iMore)

Of course, before you spend any money, why not get some games for free? There are tons of free games that made their home on the Nintendo 3DS. These include demos for games that give you a taste of the full experience, as well as "free-to-start" titles, which is just Nintendo's weird way of saying that they contain microtransactions. For the most part, Nintendo hasn't been too terrible about their microtransaction implementation on the 3DS, thankfully, and has designed them in such a way that you don't need to make any in-game purchases.

Pokémon Bank and Poké Transporter

First and foremost is Pokémon Bank, which along with Poké Transporter is the only way you can transfer Pokémon from Generation I to Generation VIII. While this does require a $5 annual fee to use, Nintendo has confirmed that the service will be free to use after the closure of the eShop, although you won't be able to download it after the eShop shuts down.

Nintendo Badge Arcade

The Nintendo Switch is greatly lacking in customization options, but the 3DS was rich in themes and badges that could be obtained from this free title. It features Nintendo game-themed badges that can be placed on the 3DS HOME Menu, allowing users to add personal flair to their system and collect badges from their favorite games. Don't worry about the in-game purchases, though: players get two free plays a day, and then earn more free plays on the practice catcher.

My Nintendo games

There are two games that can be obtained for free through the My Nintendo service. My Nintendo Picross - The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a free Picross game with a The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess theme, costing 1,000 My Nintendo Platinum coins. Flipnote Studio 3D is a sequel to the DSi title, costing just 200 Platinum coins. Now that Nintendo has allowed My Nintendo members to earn Platinum coins just by using their Nintendo Switch, these should be even easier to obtain.

Here are some more free games that are worth downloading before they disappear forever:

  • Rusty's Real Deal Baseball
  • Team Kirby Clash Deluxe
  • Pokémon Picross
  • Pokémon Shuffle
  • Steel Diver: Sub Wars

Digital-only titles

Pocket Card Jockey

Pocket Card Jockey (Image credit: Nintendo)

As a footnote, there are tons of digital-only games that were built specifically for the 3DS that will be lost to time once the eShop closes. The Streetpass minigames, while kind of defunct nowadays, still hold a special place in my heart. I've been vocal about my love for Streetpass and how I'd like it to come to Switch, so if you're interested in even playing these with Play Coins, this is your last chance to get them.

Three series of games continue to garner critical acclaim when people talk about games on the 3DS: the Dillon series, the Boxboy series, and the Pushmo series. Interestingly enough, these are all trilogies that were developed and published by Nintendo. They're all inexpensive and charming experiences that I'd recommend to any 3DS owner, and each series has at least one demo available for players to try out!

Though Game Freak is best known for the Pokémon games, their independent games are ridiculously charming and feature solid gameplay. Pocket Card Jockey is a cross-over of solitaire and horse racing, and despite it sounding super strange, it works extremely well. HarmoKnight is a rhythm game where you run and jump to the beat of the funky soundtrack. Both games have demos as well, so if you're on the fence, this is a risk-free means of checking them out.

The little handheld that could

The 3DS was, without a doubt, one of the best consoles Nintendo released. With tons of charm and amazing games, I'll sincerely miss this console as it fades into obscurity. If you're interested in any of these games at all, make sure to pick them up before the eShop shuts down forever in March of 2023. As always, avoid too much speculation on investing in games, and above all else, do what makes you happy. If you're looking for Wii U games to pick up, make sure to have a look at our list of best Wii U games to buy before the eShop closes as well.

Nadine Dornieden
Nadine Dornieden

Nadine is a freelance writer for iMore with a specialty in all things Nintendo, often working on news, guides, reviews, and editorials. She's been a huge Nintendo fan ever since she got to pet her very own Nintendog, and enjoys looking at Nintendo's place in the video game industry. Writing is her passion, but she mostly does it so that she can pay off her ever-growing debt to Tom Nook. Her favorite genres are simulation games, rhythm games, visual novels, and platformers. You can find her at @stopthenadness on Twitter, where she'll more than likely be reposting cute Animal Crossing content.